New Castle News

April 15, 2013

Family Matters: Edinburg man who has ‘adopted’ care home residents is first Person who Makes a Difference nominee

Kayleen Cubbal
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Mahfouz “John” Abraham’s heart breaks when he hears residents at the Cedar Manor Personal Care Home say they have no family.

“I tell them, ‘yes, you sure do,’ ” he said. “I’m your family.”

And so he is.

The 56-year-old Abraham, who has “adopted” residents of the Edinburg care facility which is located on Route 422 across from his home, has been selected as a Person Who Makes a Difference in Lawrence County. He was nominated by his daughter, Jenna Abraham Klamer.

“I don’t think you could find a more giving person than my dad,” Klamer said. “He has been quietly doing this kind of thing for people for years, not because he ever wants any recognition. He just has a huge heart.”

For the past 13 years, Abraham has made a daily trek to Cedar Manor to check in on its residents. He always is ready to accommodate a request for a ride to a store, the bank, or anywhere else residents might need to go. He brings coffee and donuts, dinner and gifts, anything to make their days a little brighter.

“One of our ladies likes to drink chai and he’ll come in, hand her a cup and say, ‘here’s your chai,’ ” said Crystal Houk, who is head of staff at the home. “Who else would do that for someone they barely know?

“He knows what everyone likes and what makes them happy and he does his best to see that they get it. They light up when they see him. He’ll come over on Friday nights with pizza and he’ll sit with everyone and eat with them.

“John is just a good person,” she added. “He’s a good friend to everyone, residents and staff alike. There aren’t too many like him out there.”

Administrator Amanda Walker said simply seeing Abraham walk across the highway is a day-brightener for residents.

“On Valentine’s Day, he brought a rose to each female at the facility,” Walker said. “They were thrilled. Some of them don’t have family, or rarely get visitors. He has become their family.”



A STRONG BOND

Abraham, known as “Mutzy” to friends, began visiting the care facility 13 years ago when he moved from New Castle to Edinburg.

It didn’t take long for the residents to start waving at him when they were sitting outside and he was working in his yard. When Jenna was hired as activities coordinator, he became a frequent visitor.

Brothers Richard and Robert Carran have been there for the duration, living in a room together, and eventually, they started heading over to the home Abraham shares with his wife, Noreen, to visit.

“Richard brings my mail and paper to me and on Thursday nights, he takes my garbage down to the road,” Abraham said. “He takes the same path up and the same path down. It gives him something to look forward to.

“Some of the residents are mentally challenged, but so what? They’re people, too, and they can tell when someone cares about them.”

Cedar Manor resident Jim Reid, who watched last week’s Wrestlemania pay-per-view at the Abraham home, is another frequent visitor.

“Jim’s a huge wrestling fan. There are a lot of Penguins and Pirates and Steelers fans there, too,” Abraham said. “They are crazy for the Penguins right now, I wish I could afford to rent a big van and take them all to a game because I know it would make them so happy.”



AN OPEN DOOR

Residents who have nowhere else to go are invited to the Abrahams on every holiday.

“You’ve never seen a holiday party like my dad throws a party,” Jenna said. “There is always room for a few more. It really bothers him to think that someone might be alone.”

John agrees.

“They know my door is always open to them,” he said. “When some of them say they don’t have a family, it just breaks my heart. What if that was me or someone I cared about. I would want someone to be there for that person.”

For those who know Abraham, the parties aren’t limited to holidays.

“He just took us to the circus,” Jenna said. “He took our pastor and his wife and four kids and my entire family, even my grandmother went and he paid for everything.

“He had toys and popcorn and little gifts waiting on every single one of our chairs when we got there. He’s just that type of person. He makes you feel special every minute of every day. He comes off as a rough, tough guy, but he’s just a big teddy bear.”

Several times a year, John and Noreen make dinner for the Cedar Manor residents and staff — meatloaf is one of John’s specialties — and for the last meal, he used 30 pounds of meat, 25 pounds of potatoes and restaurant-sized cans of peas.



ON THE GO

John is retired on disability after an injury led to the removal of all the vertebrae in his neck. The 1975 New Castle High graduate married Noreen, his high school sweetheart, 35 years ago, after they met when he was a star scorer and rebounder on the Red Hurricane basketball team and she was a member of the dance line. John remains a huge New Castle basketball fan and attends all the ’Canes games.

They are extremely close to their children, Jenna and son Matthew, and grandchildren Imanii Abraham, 4, who is Jenna’s son, and Matthew’s children, Maxwell, who is almost 9, and 2-year-old Madison. Jenna is pregnant with grandchild No. 4, a girl.

While Noreen is at work as a mortgage originator at Huntington Bank, John never is idle.

John’s mother, Margaret Moses, moved into his home when her house burned in November, so he oversees her care as well.

He heads to Cedar Manor as early as 6 a.m., and often is still there at 10:45 p.m., especially when the weather is warm and they all can sit outside. John often has his adorable chatterbox Imanii in tow and, like John, Imanii knows all of the residents by name.

“He took his basketball over with him one day last summer and asked a couple of the ladies who were sitting outside if they knew how to dribble. Before you knew it, they were dribbling the basketball in their chairs,” John said with a wide smile.



WHATEVER IT TAKES

John was bothered when he noticed that Cedar Manor didn’t have Christmas lights and decorations, so he brought some of his leftovers and put them up last year. In the summer, he plans to haul his rototiller over to help dig the garden that several of the residents keep.

“If my mother can’t find my dad, she knows where to look,” Jenna said with a chuckle.

“It’s a two-way street,” Abraham said. “If I needed help, I know every one of them would be there in a minute to help me.”

John gets no reward for his actions other than personal satisfaction, but he says that is plenty for him.

“I’m not a rich man, but if I have it, I’m willing to share it,” Abraham said. “What good is life if you can’t do something for someone who has less than you do.

“I figure if I make someone smile, then it’s been a good day.”

(Email: kcubbal@ncnewsonline.com).